As a relative newcomer to documentaries and a long-time fan of food television, it was only natural that I’d eventually gravitate toward The Food That Built America. But it felt like a kismet culinary creation when the holidays arrived. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. Let’s celebrate by chowing down on some tasty history!
After watching Season 1, I had assumed the History Channel had itself a hit documentary, but I didn’t imagine it could be extended into an actual television series. Boy, was I ever wrong. I was incredibly thrilled when the second season debuted.
While I can only watch food shows while preparing food myself or I’ll go from zero to starving within only a few seconds, it’s taken me longer than I had anticipated to catch up on the remaining episodes this year. With Turkey Day leftovers still filling the fridge, I felt like this was a pretty great time to regurgitate the show.
Season 2 retouches on America’s Chocolate, Pizza and Hamburger Wars, initially feeling like a repeat, although there’s new challengers to the fast-food thrones who appear this time around (Reese’s, Pizza Hut, Burger King, etc.). There’s some sweet dessert episodes scattered about and the season finale explores “American Cheese.” I seemed to gravitate toward the cereal barons, who technically created the breakfast meal, removing the need for the previous night’s leftovers. The creation of chewing gum was unique, as well.
And you can’t forget about the creations of modern-day soup, chocolates, soft drinks and snacks that ushered in the eventual culinary billionaires.
With so many new products being created, popularizing and perfecting an item usually takes place with separate people. It’s the one thing that may drive a person and beg another to sell out. When two people have similar creations? The rivalry is unmatched. To the victors go the spoils (as well as the ever-impressive revenge lists).
Stepping out of coworkers (and family) shadows, these empire builders launched billion-dollar industries from their imaginations, becoming the founding fathers (and mothers) of revolutionary creations, many of which were accidents. Years before major food conglomerates (and marketing regulations) were even a thing, they created new opportunities and with them untold wealth.
This show is pretty great, mining the wealth of knowledge from a variety of culinary historians, although I still don’t quite get the reasoning for rapper RZA to be a part of this franchise, but so be it.
If there’s one thing that Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and all the other holiday traditions have in common… it’s food. And this documentary series does a great job in giving thanks and showing respect for the creators of today’s culinary traditions.
With the success of both seasons on the network, this show has built multiple sister series and spinoff franchises, including The Machines That Built America, The Titans That Built America, The Men Who Built America, The Cars That Made America, The Engineering That Built the World, The Cars That Built the World, and most recently, The Toys That Built America, which premieres on Sunday.